Could Being Distracted by Your Phone Cause Weight Gain?

From mobile phones, tablets and laptop computers to all the different types of social media out there, modern day society as a whole is distracted in a way it never has before.  Scientists have noticed that as technology becomes more prevalent, people are also getting fatter.  VOA’s Elizabeth has the details on a Rice University study examining whether there is a link between technology habits and obesity.

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Education Key Campaign Issue for Younger Voters, But Not the Only One

Education has been a key issue for Democratic candidates running for president in the 2020 race, especially as they seek the support of younger Americans who have now replaced Baby Boomers as the country’s largest voting bloc. But education is not the only concern for these young voters.  Other social issues are likely to motivate them to go to the polls in 2020.  Sahar Majid has more in this report for VOA narrated by Kathleen Struck. 
 

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Old Fashioned Steam Train Still Thrills in Pennsylvania

There is an allure and excitement to the power of an old-fashioned steam train. Coal powered trains plied the rails in the United States for 175 years, starting in the 1830’s, and were an integral part of America’s westward expansion and industrial revolution. Today, visitors can experience riding on America’s oldest operating railroad, which is only seven kilometers long. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us more from Ronks, Pennsylvania.

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UK Treasury Chief Vows to Quit if Boris Johnson Becomes PM

British Treasury chief Philip Hammond said Sunday that he will quit if _ as widely expected — Boris Johnson becomes prime minister this week on a promise to leave the European Union with or without a divorce deal.
 
Hammond said Johnson’s vow to press for a no-deal Brexit if he can’t secure a new agreement with the EU is “not something that I could ever sign up to.”
 
Hammond was almost certain to be removed from office by the new leader in any case. He has angered Brexit-backers, who now dominate the governing Conservative Party, with his warnings about the economic pain that leaving the EU could cause.
 
Hammond told the BBC that if Johnson wins, “I’m not going to be sacked because I’m going to resign before we get to that point.”
 
Johnson is the strong favorite to win a two-person runoff to lead the Conservative Party and the country. The winner is being announced Tuesday, with the victor taking over from Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday.
 
Britain is due to leave the EU on Oct. 31 but Parliament has repeatedly rejected the divorce deal struck between May and the bloc. Both Johnson and his rival Jeremy Hunt, the current foreign secretary, say they will leave the EU without an agreement if the EU won’t renegotiate.
 
Most economists say quitting the 28-nation bloc without a deal would cause Britain economic turmoil. The U.K.’s official economic watchdog has forecast that a no-deal Brexit would trigger a recession, with the pound plummeting in value, borrowing soaring by 30 billion pounds ($37 billion) and the economy shrinking 2% in a year.
 
But Johnson, who helped lead the “leave” campaign in Britain’s 2016 EU membership referendum, says a no-deal Brexit will be “vanishingly inexpensive” if the country prepares properly.
 
The EU insists it won’t reopen the 585-page divorce deal it struck with May.
 
Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney said Sunday that the bloc is “simply not going to move away from the Withdrawal Agreement.”
 
“If the approach of the new British prime minister is that they’re going to tear up the Withdrawal Agreement, then I think we’re in trouble,” he told the BBC. “We’re all in trouble, quite frankly, because it’s a little bit like saying: ‘Either give me what I want or I’m going to burn the house down for everybody.'”
 
Hammond is the third U.K. minister within a week to quit or say they will resign in order to try to prevent a cliff-edge Brexit. Britain looks set for a fall showdown between the new Conservative government and British lawmakers determined to thwart a no-deal exit.
 
“I am confident that Parliament does have a way of preventing a no-deal exit on October 31 without parliamentary consent and I intend to work with others to ensure parliament uses its power to make sure that the new government can’t do that,” Hammond said.
 

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World Bank: Peace Deal With Taliban to Help Improve Struggling Afghan Economy

The World Bank estimated Sunday that Afghanistan’s economy grew by less than two percent (1.8 %) in 2018 primarily due to ongoing war, drought and political uncertainty, likely leading to further increases in poverty.

In its latest assessment of the Afghan economy, the Bank noted that sustained and substantial improvement in the security situation are key to better economic conditions required to reduce poverty from high current levels.

“Any political settlement with the Taliban could bring major economic benefits through improving confidence and encouraging the return of Afghan capital and skilled workers from overseas,” the assessment noted.

The report comes as the United States has been holding negotiations with Taliban insurgents to try to bring an end to the 18-year-old Afghan war. The two adversaries are said to have come closer to signing a peace deal that could also jumpstart intra-Afghan negotiations for permanent cessation of four decades of hostilities in the country.

“Whatever happens, rapid growth will only be possible with improved security under a government that remains committed to private sector development, respects the rights of investors, and maintains the gains Afghanistan has achieved over the past two decades towards establishing strong and impartial government institutions” said  Henry Kerali, the World Bank Afghanistan country director.

FILE In this Mar. 27, 2019 photo, construction projects can be seen in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Sunday’s report, however, hailed progress in government policies and a strong economic management, saying it has improved prospects for 2019, with growth expected to accelerate to 2.5 percent with the easing of drought conditions.

“Government revenues reached a new high of nearly 190 billion afghanis in 2018, up seven percent from 2017 while budget execution rates also reached record levels,” it noted.

It urged the government to do more to improve the business environment, ensure a smooth election process and prevent corruption and management of scarce fiscal resources over the difficult months to come.

Afghan election officials are preparing to hold the repeatedly-delayed presidential vote on September 28. Presidential hopefuls alleged incumbent President Ashraf Ghani, who is also seeking re-election, is using state machinery and resources to undermine his rivals.

Presidential spokespeople, however, reject the charges.

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US Concerned over China’s ‘Interference’ in South China Sea

The United States said it’s concerned by reports of China’s interference with oil and gas activities in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, where Vietnam accuses Beijing of violating its sovereignty.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement that China’s “repeated provocative actions aimed at the offshore oil and gas development of other claimant states threaten regional energy security and undermine the free and open Indo-Pacific energy market.”

Vietnam on Friday demanded China remove a survey ship from Vanguard Bank, which it says lies within Vietnam’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone. China claims the South China Sea almost in its entirety and has rattled smaller neighbors by constructing seven man-made islands in the disputed waters and equipped them with military runways and outposts.

Chinese coast guard vessels also have been reported near a drilling rig in the same Vanguard Bank area where Vietnam has contracted Russia’s Rosneft to develop gas fields.

“Vietnam has made contact with China on multiple occasions via different channels, delivered diplomatic notes to oppose China’s violations, and staunchly demanded China to stop all unlawful activities and withdraw its ships from Vietnamese waters,”Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said in a statement Friday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang earlier in the week urged Hanoi to respect China’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction, “and not to take any move that may complicate matters.”

In May 2014, Chinese and Vietnamese vessels engaged in a dangerous confrontation when China’s national oil company moved its oil platform into waters Vietnam considers its territory.

Ortagus calls on China to “cease its bullying behavior and refrain from engaging in this type of provocative and destabilizing activities.”

 

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